Safety in the Haven

We provide free services for recreational users including navigational and traffic information via our Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) and a seasonal harbour patrol. Our marker buoys, yacht channels and harbour patrols also help ensure safe passage. Our tide tables for Harwich and Notices to Mariners provide further useful information for both locals and visitors.

We also collaborate on a regular basis with local yacht clubs such as the Harwich Area Sailing Association (HASA) to make their members aware of the hazards of boating in our busy harbour.

So visitors can fully enjoy the Haven’s surroundings, we work to preserve its environment by collaborating with groups including the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, Natural England and RSPB to protect natural habitats.

Whether you are visiting the area or are a local sailor it’s worth taking a look at the following information, which will ensure your safety and enhance your enjoyment of the Haven.

More than 10,000 yachts of all shapes and sizes visit the Haven area each year. However, if your vessel is over the 50 G.T please follow the procedures outlined in Information for Masters.

Below we have put together a brief overview of points to remember if you are out on the water in the Haven. A more detailed guide can be downloaded here.

Communication, navigation and safety

VHF Radio

The Harbour Operations frequency, VHF Channel 71 is extremely busy with commercial shipping. The radio call sign is “HARWICH VTS”.

This channel is extremely busy and we request that yachts refrain from using the channel except in an emergency. It is, however, beneficial to monitor the channel for commercial vessel movements.


All vessels of more than 50 G.T. entering or leaving the seaward approaches to Harwich Harbour by the Approach Channel must report by VHF Ch 71 to Harwich VTS when passing the appropriate reporting points indicated on Admiralty charts, and report to Ipswich Port Radio Ch 68 on entering the River Orwell.

Navigational safety

The main deep-water navigational channels within Harwich Harbour are well marked by buoys and lights. Yachts are advised to keep clear of the channels and use the recommended yacht tracks.

When main channels have to be crossed, this should be done as nearly as practicable at right angles. Avoid crossing the bows of on-coming commercial traffic. Large container ships, in particular, have very restricted visibility for quite a distance ahead when carrying a deck cargo of containers.

We request that sailors conduct themselves in a responsible way while using the Haven and adhere to both the Collison Regulations and best practice advise given by the Royal Yacht Association.

Speed limits

The speed limit for power boats, cruisers, or yachts is 8 knots within Harwich Harbour, the River Stour and the Walton Backwaters. The limit is 6 knots within the River Orwell. Please avoid wash damage to the banks of the River Orwell.

For further information, see the Harwich Haven Authority Byelaws or Ipswich Port Authority Byelaws.

Harbour patrol

Throughout the year we patrol the harbour between to provide assistance, advice and ensure the main channel is kept clear for commercial shipping. During the weekend of the summer months we patrol between 0800 and 1800.


Harwich VTS cannot undertake control of small craft in reduced visibility but our vessel traffic services team will provide assistance if possible. Listen in on channel 71 and always carry a radar reflector, flares and suitable emergency equipment.

If you do not have radar and intend crossing any shipping lane, and you are in serious doubt as to the commercial movements, call Harwich V.T.S. on channel 71, or Ipswich Port Radio Ch 68 whilst in the River Orwell.

Remember your obligations under the prevention of collision regulations, particularly the ability to make an efficient sound signal.

Collision regulations

  • A vessel of less than 20m in length or sailing vessel shall not impede the passage of vessels which can safely navigate only within a narrow channel or fairway.
  • A vessel shall not cross a narrow channel or fairway if such crossing impedes the passage of a vessel which can safely navigate only within such channel or fairway. The latter vessel may use the sound signal prescribed in Rule 34(d) if in doubt as to the intention of the crossing vessel.
  • A sailing vessel underway shall keep out of the way of:
    • a vessel not under command;
    • a vessel restricted in her ability to manoeuvre;
    • a vessel engaged in fishing.
  • Any vessel other than a vessel not under command or a vessel restricted in her ability to manoeuvre shall, if the circumstances of the case admit, avoid impeding the safe passage of a vessel constrained by her draught, exhibiting the signals in Rule 28.


Water-skiiing, jet-skiing and sailboarding are not permitted in or near any navigational channel used by commercial vessels. Power craft are only permitted in designated areas. Sail-boarding is not permitted in or near mooring areas or beaches. Please be aware that permission to launch and recover may need to be sought from the local authority.

Useful Information

Prevention of Pollution by Garbage Regulations (1993)

The North Sea, including its Estuaries and Rivers, is designated a special Area under Annex 5 of MARPOL. Within this area the disposal of all garbage is STRICTLY PROHIBITED. Food waste may only be put overboard outside the 12 mile limit in compliance with the Regulations, otherwise all garbage must be retained on board until it can be deposited on shore in approved receptacles.

Dangerous Goods in Harbour Areas Regulations 2016 (DGHAR)

A vessel alongside displaying an all-round red light by night or a red flag by day indicates that she is carrying dangerous substances. Under these Regulations an exclusion zone of up to 200m is to be enforced around any vessel loading or discharging explosives. Tankers alongside the oil jetties at Harwich, Felixstowe and Ipswich should also be given a wide berth.

Recommended minimum weights and cable sizes

Size Anchor Ground cable Pennant cable
Up to 5m 2 concrete sinkers (100kg each) or 2 rond anchors (25kg each) 12mm, 6m in length for sinkers or 12m in length for anchors 10mm with 10mm swivel
5m to 7.5m 2 concrete sinkers (150kg each) or 2 roud anchors (38kg each) 20mm, 8m in length for sinkers or 16m in length for anchors 12mm with 12mm swivel
7.5m to 13.7m 2 concrete sinkers (250kg each) or 2 rond anchors (75kg each) 25mm, 10m in length for sinkers or 20m in length for anchors 15mm with 15mm swivel
over 13.7m Application for approval of mooring must be made to the Harbour Master

Pennant cable length should be be equivalent to depth of water at MHWST plus 4m and to include the defined swivel in such a position as to be clear of the sea bed at all times when a craft is on the mooring.

All shackles must be compatible with the size of chain used and should be seized with wire or plastic cable ties.